Pittsburgh

Photo Essay: Old and New Environments Coming Together in Pittsburgh

Blog and Photos by Christina Catanese

A few months ago, home in my native Pittsburgh, I paid a visit with my family to a place I went to many times growing up – Phipps Conservatory.  My childhood recollections of the place mainly revolve around the stunning plant displays, and the plethora of colors and types of flowers that seemed to grow out of every possible surface.  I was enchanted by the re-creation of various ecosystems, like the tropical plant room that thrived even in the bleak Pittsburgh winter.  But during this visit, I encountered a new aspect of the Conservatory that changed how I saw the place, and indeed, my hometown itself.

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes was opened last year as Phipps’ hub for education, research, and administration.  Striving to be “one of the greenest buildings on earth,” the Center utilizes innovative technologies to generate all its own energy, as well as treat and reuse all water captured on site.

Taking a stroll through the Center for Sustainable Landscapes’ grounds. The center building’s exterior incorporates repurposed wood salvaged from barns in Western Pennsylvania.

Taking a stroll through the Center for Sustainable Landscapes’ grounds. The center building’s exterior incorporates repurposed wood salvaged from barns in Western Pennsylvania.

While a beautiful architectural construction, I was most impressed with the stormwater management measures the Center took, from the green roof, to rain gardens, to the pervious pavement used on the walkways.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Answering the Call of the Water

By Christina Catanese

This time of year seems to bring people out of the woodwork after being cooped up all winter, to enjoy the sun and green of spring.  For me, this means I must answer the Call of the Water and take some time in nature and out on the water.

Last week, I spent a few days kayaking the Clarion River near the Allegheny National Forest.  It didn’t take long before the stress of normal life that had built up in my shoulders melted away, as my energy and perspective became focused on reconnecting with the land and waters in my native Western Pennsylvania.

Looking downstream from the banks of the Clarion

Looking upstream from the banks of the Clarion

As the blades of my paddle dipped through the water, I pictured those same, splashing water molecules making their way down the Clarion, into the Allegheny River, and all the way to my hometown of Pittsburgh. There, they would meet other molecules from the Monongahela, become the Ohio River, then the Mississippi, and finally flow into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Thinking about the journey these little H2Os would go through illuminated the concept of a watershed for me.  I realized that anything I did to the water way up in Northwestern Pennsylvania would have an impact on the water quality for millions of people that live downstream… so I’d better hold on to that granola bar wrapper if I didn’t want it to show up late for Mardi Gras. Imagining the long path this water would take made the measly 4 miles I kayaked seem like cake – what an epic journey it would be to follow that water all that way!

A heron I encountered during my kayaking trip

A heron I encountered during my kayaking trip

Spending time on rivers  can give us perspective and helps us get to know our rivers, and ourselves, in a totally new way.  Whether they flow through forested or urban areas (or a combination), we see their many uses as well as their beauty, and come to appreciate them as part of a whole network of rivers and streams that connect and support us.

That’s why many environmental and watershed groups around the country sponsor sojourns every year to help people reconnect with their rivers.  Some sojourns are just a few miles, while others paddle the entire length of a river over the course of a few days.  A quick survey reveals tons of sojourning opportunities in the Mid Atlantic region:

Is there a sojourn happening on a river near you not on this list?  Let us know!  Don’t see a sojourn happening on your river?  Start your own.

This spring and summer, I hope you too will answer the Call of the Water and get to know a river near you just a little bit better.

About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, in the Water Protection Division’s Office of Program Support. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied Environmental Studies, Political Science, and Hydrogeology. When not in the office, Christina enjoys performing, choreographing and teaching modern dance.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Around the Water Cooler: Showing Buried Streams the Daylight

Pittsburgh Point park and North Shore

Rivers and streams offer many benefits.

By Lahne Mattas-Curry  

I’m from Pittsburgh. A city of rivers—three to be exact. If there’s one thing you know about Pittsburgh, besides being a former steel town, it’s the rivers. (Pop quiz: Can you name all three and spell them correctly?) 

Rivers and streams in cities offer many benefits – from recreation and swimming to aesthetic and economic impacts. For example, the North Shore in Pittsburgh is home to the Steelers (Here we go!!) and the Pirates (Let’s go Bucs!) along with a variety of shops and restaurants. It’s a short walk over the Roberto Clemente Bridge from downtown Pittsburgh and is dotted with parks and bike paths. Riverfront investment generates economic benefits like increased property values, too. But more than the economic impact, the beautiful landscapes and wildlife habitat lead to healthy ecosystems. Hard to imagine that some cities decide to bury the rivers in pipes and build OVER the rivers instead of AROUND the rivers and streams. 

But that is what has happened in many cities—large and small—around the country. As the population grew and urban developers wanted to expand on a plot of land with a stream or river on it, they diverted it, confined it in concrete channels, or buried it in pipes underground. 

EPA scientists and engineers are now learning that buried streams may cause problems with our water quality and have offered up a simple solution: unbury the streams. Daylighting is actually the technical term for “unburying” these rivers and streams. Often, streams buried in pipes underground are also combined with the cities sewer pipes. This is another cause of combined sewer overflow and pollution in our waterways. 

According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, daylighting can improve downstream water quality by exposing water to sunlight, air, soil, and vegetation, all of which help process and remove pollutants. EPA scientists believe daylighting streams will have a significant impact removing excess nitrogen and phosphorous, too, an environmental challenge many watersheds face. 

I can’t even imagine a fall Sunday morning sitting outside enjoying an early lunch at Bettis Grille before a Steelers game on the North Shore without the view of the river. That view is one of the things that makes Pittsburgh special. It should be something that makes other cities special—and healthy—as well. 

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry works with EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources team and  blogs regularly about  water.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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The Keystone State’s Sustainable Sports

Click here to visit the Eagles Green website! By Trey Cody

Soon the Eagles won’t be the only thing green in the City of Brotherly Love. The Lincoln Financial Field, or “Linc,” which is home to the popular football team the Philadelphia Eagles, plans to go green as well. This massive stadium is making a pledge to become “the most sustainable major sports stadium in the world.” Yes that’s right, not only in the Mid-Atlantic States or the United States, but the world.  How are they doing this?  Their plans include adding to an already established composting program, which captures more than 25 tons of organic waste and a water conservation program that replaced more than 600 toilets. The Eagles organization will also install wind turbines and solar panels, converting the stadium to renewable energy.  In other Philadelphia sports, the Phillies are trying to become as green as their mascot (the Philly Phanatic) with their Red Goes Green campaign launched in 2008 to reduce their environmental footprint.

On the other side of the state, Pittsburgh sports teams have been working hard to give the Eagles some competition and become a black, gold AND green city. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ brand new hockey arena, the CONSOL Energy Center, became the first LEED Gold Certified arena in the National Hockey League when it opened this year. Some of the arena’s environmentally friendly features include green space around the arena, locally bought and recycled construction materials, purchased electricity from renewable resources, water use reduction, indoor air quality, and natural light.  Now that the arena is up and running, the greening continues with the use of green cleaning materials, biodegradable utensils, and the donation of prepared but unsold concession food to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  The Penguins also partnered with the Steelers to increase recycling from tailgating outside Heinz Field.  For the last three football games of the regular season, teams of volunteers circulated in parking lots prior to the game and collected 90,000 aluminum cans, 5,000 glass bottles, 36,000 plastic bottles and cups, and 900 pounds of cardboard to be recycled.  An estimated 4,000-5,000 additional pounds of materials were estimated to have been collected for recycling in the parking lot before the Winter Classic hockey game on New Year’s Day at the stadium.

As you can see in our previous blog about the Washington Nationals’ ballpark, “The field isn’t the only thing green at the Nationals’ Stadium,” major sports teams outside of Pennsylvania have also joined the cause, and our own Mid-Atlantic region has been helping lead the way.  Let’s hope that this growing trend of sustainability in sports continues!

Want to make your home more sustainable like the Linc and CEC?  Need somewhere to start?  Try replacing your toilets; you could save up to 11 gallons per toilet everyday!  To learn more, check out EPA’s WaterSense site. Comment below on some ways you are saving water!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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